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Private Parking Tickets - To Pay Or Not To Pay?

View profile for Ellie Gilbert
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Parking on private land can be an expensive and stressful business. If you outstay your welcome, you could find yourself having to pay a hefty charge. So, what are your rights when parking your car on private land and are you able to appeal the tickets, or simply not pay at all?

Private parking fines have been a well discussed subject in the media over the last year or so and the reason for this is that nobody really knows what their rights are in relation to parking on private land and whether it is legal for the owner to impose a penalty fine for doing so or overstaying the allocated time.

However, in November 2015, a judicial decision was made by the Supreme Court which will shed some light on the position and assist motorists in knowing where they stand.

In the case of Beavis v ParkingEye, Barry Beavis challenged the right of the private parking management company, ParkingEye, to impose an £85 penalty after he stayed for nearly three hours in a shopping centre car park that allowed two hours free parking but charged a penalty for overstaying. He claimed that private firms had no legal right to impose a penalty beyond the extra cost the firm incurred because he had stayed an extra hour.

However, the Supreme Court ruled that the fine was not a ‘penalty’ as the charge authorises the company to control access to the car park in the interest of customers and the wider public. The court ruled that the charge was not unfair and that overstaying penalties are a normal feature of parking contracts. Further, the judgment said that the fines were beneficial to motorists themselves as they make parking spaces available to them which might otherwise be blocked by over-stayers.

This ruling does not mean that private car parks can do whatever they want, the court stated that the £85 fine was neither extravagant nor unconscionable however, they did not set out what a ‘reasonable’ charge for overstaying would be.

Therefore, it is important that when parking, whether on public or private land, to take heed of signs and notices. Private parking firms must have clear signs that set out the cost and terms of parking and the penalties for breaking those terms. In Beavis, ParkingEye had displayed 20 notices throughout the car park so Mr Beavis could not claim that he was unaware of the terms of parking.

Another point to note is that if you do not pay for a ticket and you do not have a parking notice on your vehicle when you return, do not assume that you have managed to get away without a fine. Many parking companies, both public and private, now use cameras with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) which enables them to know how long your vehicle has been parked for. The DVLA will provide them the name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle upon request so that penalties can be enforced.

Although it may seem that the court have taken a harsh stance on this matter, if they had not taken this approach and Mr Beavis had prevailed, we may have seen the end of free parking. Parking companies or landowners providing spaces may have felt compelled to charge for parking from the minute that cars arrive in order to prevent the abuse of their facilities.

Given the above, the advice to take from the recent judgment is to pay for your parking and do not overstay the time limit. A parking ticket is much cheaper than a parking penalty or the cost of appealing one.

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